AUGUSTA — A proposal to shield providers of legally protected abortion and gender-affirming care from hostile, out-of-state litigation advanced through both chambers of the Legislature this week.

The Senate approved the bill in a 21-13 vote Thursday. The move came a day after the House of Representatives voted 80-70 in support. The House vote came at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, after an emotional, 3 ½-hour debate that led to the censure of two Republican lawmakers.

The proposal comes in response to efforts from other states that have banned or restricted abortion or gender-affirming care and are seeking to punish their residents for seeking that care in states where it’s legal. In some cases, these states are seeking to prosecute medical providers in other states and obtain medical records of patients who travel to receive legal services.

“This bill was introduced as a response to unprecedented threat to the Mainers who provide legal health care in our state,” said Rep. Amy Kuhn, D-Falmouth, on Thursday. “At its core, this bill is about our state’s sovereign ability to set and enforce our laws without interference from Texas, Tennessee or Kentucky. This really shouldn’t be a startling or controversial concept.”

Planned Parenthood, which helped draft the bill, applauded lawmakers following the Senate vote.

“Today is another proud day for Mainers,” said Lisa Margulies, vice president of the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund. “Extremists will continue to spread lies and hateful rhetoric about reproductive health care and care for transgender people, but today’s vote made clear that a majority of our elected leaders in the Maine State Senate will focus on the facts and act with compassion and urgency to meet our current moment with policy that is necessary and appropriate.”


Much of the opposition from Republican lawmakers seemed to stem from their disagreement with the underlying laws that allow for gender-affirming care and abortion in Maine, which they vehemently oppose.

Republicans focused their arguments on the impacts of some minors, including 16- and 17-year-olds who can receive abortions and gender-affirming care under certain circumstances, including a medical diagnosis for gender dysphoria, which is when someone identifies as a gender different than their biological sex for a sustained period. They argued that the bill would make the state a kidnapping and human trafficking safe haven.

“This bill is the most extreme and unconscionable thing I have seen in my 61 years of life,” said Rep. David Haggan, R-Hampden. “How any human – grandmother, grandfather, person, father, brother, sister, or person who cares for our youth or loves people – could vote for this boggles my mind.”

Rep. Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea, called the bill “the purest form of evil” that was “inspired by Lucifer himself.” He said that recent severe storms and even the mass shooting in Lewiston was God’s revenge for “immoral laws” passed by the current Legislature, including the expansion of abortion.

Lemelin and Rep. Shelley Rudnicki, R-Fairfield, who endorsed his comments, were censured Thursday by the House of Representatives for ignoring repeated warnings for breaking the rules of decorum.

They criticized provisions that would prevent Maine law enforcement agencies from helping another state investigate cases involving practitioners providing health care services that are legally protected in Maine.


Democrats, however, stressed that the bill would not change any existing laws or policies relating to abortion or gender-affirming care – and certainly wouldn’t prohibit law enforcement from investigating suspected state or federal crimes, including trafficking and kidnapping.

The Maine Prosecutors Association testified that the bill would not change any of the underlying state statutes defining legally protected medical care, or negatively impact prosecutions of other crimes, such as kidnapping, trafficking or child custody laws.

While Republicans largely focused on possible impacts on minors, Senate Democrats argued that the law was intended to protect practitioners who provide legally protected health care to adults.

“This bill really isn’t about children, this bill is about protecting health care providers,” Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, said Thursday.


Some critics worried that the bill would lead to an increase in unnecessary gender-affirming care.


“Gender dysphoria in teenage girls has become a trend and a catch-all diagnosis for teens having mental health issues,” said Rep. Gregory Swallow, R-Houlton, on Wednesday. “Clearly, 16- and 17-years are not ready to make these life-altering decisions.”

Rep. Sam Zager, D-Portland, who is also a family physician, said that standards of care lay out a thoughtful and rigorous process for determining whether someone has gender dysphoria and should receive gender-affirming care. Such a diagnosis requires proof of a longstanding condition, often times years, he said, rather than being provided on a whim, as Republicans argued.

“This is not somebody whisked away for a weekend making a declaration and having surgery,” Zager said. “It is very deliberate and very meticulous and is not done expediently.”

The bill, L.D. 227, would protect Maine practitioners who are providing legally protected health care in this state from hostile, litigation from out of state. Abortion is legal in Maine and lawmakers last year approved a bill to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to receive limited gender-affirming care, which does not include surgery, without parental consent if they meet specific requirements.

Practitioners providing care that deviates from the medical community’s commonly accepted standards of care, or who engage in criminal behavior, would not be protected under the bill.



If passed, anyone harmed by hostile out-of-state litigation would be able to file a civil lawsuit against whoever filed the suit.

The bill was dropped late in the session and the details were not readily available to the public, leading to confusion and criticism about the bill’s goals and the motivations of its sponsors. Lawmakers from both parties are now eying reforms to placeholder bills.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization upended the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing the nationwide right to abortion, several states have not only banned or restricted access to abortion but have sought to punish their residents who leave their home states to receive abortions and the caregivers who provide them.

Twenty-one states have banned or limited abortion rights since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Twenty-two states have approved laws banning gender-affirming care, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

If approved, Maine would join 17 states and Washington, D.C., in passing laws shielding health care providers from legal action by states that have banned or restricted abortions. Eleven states and Washington, D.C., have enacted similar laws protecting providers of gender-affirming care.

The bill faces final votes in both chambers before being sent to Gov. Janet Mills.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.